Fear & Shaming in Nashvegas

Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Hello. I’m Beth.  And I am afraid.

I am afraid I am not really a writer because a real writer wouldn’t be afraid to write, or wouldn’t wonder whether or not she was a writer.
I am afraid that other people don’t think I am a writer, either, because anyone can blog.
I am afraid I am not a writer because writers are artists, and sharing your opinions, struggles, or personal stories is not art.
I am afraid of my own opinions about social and cultural issues: that they are too too lax or too controversial for my religious friends, too intolerant for my friends who are not religious or who are not a part of my religion, incorrect, inaccurate, biased, or in some other way wrong.
I am afraid when my opinions are popular, because that makes me a conformist, a sheep, godless, or one of those weirdo Christians (depending on the day, and the issue or topic being explored).
I am afraid when they are unpopular because they might be off-base, informed by some unknown bias, or outright wrong.
I am afraid to have conversations or to post writing about these opinions on social media because I am afraid of being judged, criticized, or proven wrong in a way that makes me feel small.
I am afraid to send my posts to Huffington Post anymore, because one piece that took me months to write drew pages of criticism and trolling.
I am afraid to post to my own blog anymore, because who calls themselves a blogger that never blogs, or: who the heck wants to read a blog about someone who just talks about how afraid she is of literally everything?
I am not a good enough writer because I am not a strong-stable-or-together enough woman, an independent-enough advocate, or a smart-enough blogger.

***
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.- Nelson Mandela 

“There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear.”- 1 John 4:12

I realized recently- after a series of debilitating panic attacks and depressive episodes- that so much of what I did (or don’t do) was driven by fear and its close cousin, shame. This realization wasn’t due to some philosophical epiphany or accrual of great wisdom, but because whenever John or another loved one asked me what was wrong, my answer would invariably start with either “I’m scared [or worried] that. . .” or with a litany of things I disliked or even hated about myself.

Then I started connecting the dots. I hadn’t produced anything creative in months upon months, in spite of yearning to write to you all to share my stories about my totally rad new marriage, my struggles with the unpredictability of nonprofit sector employment, or my resolution to read more books (which I am actually keeping, because I barely read any books last year: score!).  I had stopped stirring the pot in conversations and on social media, and was posting way less satire or evocative writing from others I admire. People were asking me questions like “How are you doing. . . really?” and making their best concerned faces.

“Fine,” I would say. But I was really just a time bomb composed almost entirely of frustration, tears and calling myself names that I would never call someone else.

In my rush to keep my negative emotions and struggles with shame, fear, and self-loathing a secret (so I wouldn’t burden anyone, or be perceived as a weak, weepy, weirdo, etc.), I kept the joys and triumphs a secret, too. I numbed and closed off all my emotions (because you can’t pick and choose what you numb), and kept connection and intimacy at bay across the board.

I finally got to the point where I was afraid of how ashamed I was, and ashamed of how afraid I was. “That’s enough. This has got to stop.” I actually said those words aloud, and that was when the clouds began lifting.

In addition to leaning in to the rigor of the Lenten services and prayers, I began reading and discussing (amongst a few loved ones) Daring Greatly by Dr. Brené Brown.

[Note: although my theology shares a lot of common ground with the principles in the book, it is research-based and practical in nature: I would highly recommend it for your personal enrichment, Lenten or otherwise.]

I admit, I was embarrassed to buy a book from the self-improvement section, but to say my self didn’t need any improvement would mean I should also be buying books about lying.

Anyway, Dr. Brown gets into the nitty-gritty of shame and vulnerability and how they cripple creativity, relationships, and self-worth. She unpacks over a decade of research, and suddenly I found myself saying “I am scared of everything, and that is a problematic situation in several ways. It’s science!” That was when I really started to grasp that fear and shame were not only holding me back from being creative, but were suffocating and hiding entire parts of myself and my struggle through the joys and the difficulties of life. I was fed up with who I had become, and the fact that I neither knew nor recognized her.

So I decided to take baby steps by posting a detailed account of this battle for you and God and everyone else to read about and weigh in on via the Internet.

This doesn’t mean I can say I will blog every week or every month, or that those fears I listed up at the top have stopped, or will stop anytime soon. I haven’t figured it out, I haven’t vanquished any foes. I have just realized that all of these things, even if they are huge and scary, can be pushed through, can be voiced, and their power over me can be diminished.

I don’t want to deprive anyone of my creativity or my individuality, or of my regular ole weird self, because I would rather look back and say, hey, my writing was worth it to me. Or, hey, at least I pushed through it. Being brave doesn’t mean that you’re not scared of the monsters under the bed, it means you call them out and fight back. This is a vulnerable process and we have to do it in some way every day. But I’m starting to see just how “worth it” the fight is.

What we give to the world out of our uniqueness is our art, whether it is a painting, a blog, an academic paper, a good meal, or an honest connection to another person. Whatever you do to be your true self is worth it, even though doing it is scary. You are not alone. Success is not having no battles to fight, it’s fighting and and strengthening and pushing through that makes us better in the long run.

There’s no way I could end this post saying “That’s it, I’m done with fear.” But I am done with being ruled by fear (and shame). I’m done with making excuses, with disconnection. I want to be myself, and for people I encounter through my writing or in my life to actually know who that is.

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You Just Got Served: the Good Samaritan Edition

As I was ruminating on current events, and the discourse surrounding them, I kept coming back to the famous parable from the Gospel of Luke:

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 

He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”  

So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘[love] your neighbor as yourself.’ And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” 

But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 

Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed,  he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 

So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37, NKJV)

good-samaritan-icon

The term “Good Samaritan” has become synonymous with helping people in need or distress, with the moniker especially applied to those who do so without expecting anything in return (i.e. giving to charity, helping someone stranded on the roadside). Of course, these are good things to do and to continue doing. But the actions of the Good Samaritan can teach us a lot more once we think about how he overturns some of our most entrenched attitudes. Here are a few of the most toxic ways of thinking about people and situations that the Good Samaritan reverses with his acts of love:

Us vs. Them

Samaritans and Jews did not get along, and that’s putting it nicely. They despised each other (a very brief explanation of why can be found here). Jews would travel far out of their way on journeys to avoid passing through Samaria. They feuded bitterly with each other over their ethnic, cultural, and religious differences. So for a Samaritan to not only be characterized as a good man, but to help someone who was presumably a Jew (while a Jewish Priest and a Levite passed by), would have been a stark example of love, compassion, and empathy.

Our society, and sometimes our own choices and attitudes, often perpetuate an Us vs. Them mentality. What creates this otherness? Perhaps it’s because we lose our sense of  community.  Consider the religious law expert asking Jesus “Who is my neighbor”. This falls into the category of “You can’t make this stuff up”. A religious law expert was seriously questioning Jesus to find a loophole in the “love your neighbor” commandment?! News flash, dude. If you have to ask that, you either don’t know who your neighbor is, or you don’t want to know.

Of course, he got served when Jesus pointed out through the Parable that everyone we meet is our neighbor, and that to be a neighbor is to have mercy on everyone we meet. There is no us, there is no them, there is only our responsibility to each person, to all of our neighbors in this human community. It got me thinking: have I ever tried to find reasons not to love my neighbor? Because, surprise! None of them are valid!

Not My Problem

Often times–because the Us vs. Them mentality takes hold, it is easy to detach ourselves from the troubles of others, or of the world at large: that’s not my problem [because it affects “them”]. Whether “them” is a social group we don’t identify with, or just someone other than ourselves and our inner circle, it takes work- a series of intentional decisions and actions– to go from detachment, to compassion, to action– which is exactly what made the Good Samaritan so “good”.

He had absolutely no reason to stop and help. In fact, he had every reason to keep on going. He didn’t know the guy, and it was someone who he was completely different from (in ethnicity, religion, culture). Not to mention it was a graphic scene, it would cost him money, and it would require him going out of his way. Why should he invest time, energy and feelings in this guy? Clearly he was in a bad way– what if he deserved it? Wouldn’t it be better for someone else to handle this?

Served again. Along with “his neighbor”, the Samaritan had a broad definition of what counted as “his problem”: it seemed to be any problem he noticed affecting not just himself, but his neighbor [essentially anyone who crossed his path].

I can’t help.

Even if we recognize that all mankind is our neighbor, and their hurts and needs are our problems, it is easy to feel like we can’t help. The problems we observe might affect many of our neighbors, or one neighbor may have many problems we don’t feel equipped to solve. Here the Samaritan offers more wisdom: you can help. Just use what you have, do what you can, and reach out to others when needed. Sometimes we can’t solve an entire problem for our neighbor, but there are always ways we can help. It may be as simple as listening, saying a prayer, or affirming and validating someone. In any of those cases, a little bit goes a long way toward healing.

I can’t relate.

So, if our neighbor is supposed to include everyone, there are going to be times we don’t agree with our neighbor, or have so little in common with our neighbor that it feels like we can’t relate to them on any level. How can we help, how can we heal, if we don’t see something of ourselves in them? If we don’t feel like our neighbors are in the right– are we off the hook? If there is nothing about their problem or their situation that we feel deserves our time and attention, is that person still our neighbor?

Although the Samaritan was obviously kind and generous and did many things to help the man by the roadside, Jesus spotlights one characteristic, one attribute above all that made him a neighbor more than any single act: he showed mercy. Mercy is defined in two ways:

1. kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly

2. kindness or help given to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation

Both of these apply to the mercy shown by the Good Samaritan: he was being kind to someone in dire straits, and the person he showed kindness to was someone who he could–in a social context- have every reason to treat harshly.  His example is one we should all follow: in which the world is our community, every person in it is our neighbor, and in which we are called to help one another heal through [both kinds of] mercy.

***

Food for thought:

What is the most challenging lesson of the Good Samaritan?

What is one way I have been shown Mercy (when I may have had reason to be treated otherwise)

How can I “go and do likewise”?

5 Things It’s Okay to Say (to a Person who uses a Wheelchair)

Recently, there have been a lot of posts on my newsfeed about what not to say: to single people, to married people, to parents, to kids, and-most recently- to people who use wheelchairs/have disabilities. And all that awareness is good.

Person-first language is important and necessary. It’s generally good to be sensitive and tactful with what we say, because language reveals where our emphasis and values fall in the scheme of things. However, I am sure it can be challenging to know exactly what to say, if all you’re ever confronted with is a list of “noes”.

best buds

Photo by M. E. Smith

So, for my part, I’d like to help. Because it’s good to know what to do. And because I don’t feel like being negative today:

5 Things It’s Okay to Say to a Person Who Uses a Wheelchair [This Person, at least]:

1. It’s okay to say, “Can I [or may I] help you?”

This is a perfectly natural and normal question to ask anyone if you think they could use a hand. So there’s nothing wrong with offering to help a person who uses a wheelchair. In fact, offering is infinitely preferred to assuming that help is needed, thereby pushing my wheelchair or otherwise assisting me without asking. If I say no,  I may need the exercise, the quiet time, or the opportunity to try to complete a task independently. But there are many times I accept help gratefully when offered.

2. It’s okay to say words like walk, run, stand, and so on:

You may invite me to go for a walk with you, to run to the store, to stand around and wait for something or someone with you. None of those phrases are offensive, none of them make me sad. It is precisely because I have a wheelchair that I can participate in the same activities you do. I don’t want to roll to the store with you, because a) that sounds deeply weird and b) it is no longer an activity we’re doing together. But a walk in the park with you? That sounds lovely.

3.  It’s okay to say, “My child has a question for you.”:

Children are inquisitive, and some of the most fascinating conversations I have had about disability have been with children [like the school kids who told me that everyone should be able to play on the playground, or the little girl who thought I was a Transformer]. I welcome questions and interaction from children, even if they seem perplexed or intimidated by my wheelchair at first. Something as simple as “Why do you use that?” is an opportunity for me to help a child be more aware of disability and how it affects people.  Not to mention it encourages a natural dialogue and helps to counter the Fear of Difference that kids sometimes struggle with.

[I would also encourage parents to think of age-appropriate ways to discuss disabilities with your children on your own time, in case you are in a setting where your child sees a person with a disability and is curious, but immediate conversation with a new person is impractical.]

4.  It’s okay to say, “Excuse Me”:

Too often, I have unknowingly been in someone’s path, and that person has attempted to squeeze by, inadvertently bumping my chair [or worse: moving my chair without my permission: gross].  Beyond that, I have been apologized to for being in someone else’s way more times than I can count. It is perfectly fine to say, “Excuse me” if the need arises. In fact, it’s downright polite. Your mom will be proud.

5. It’s okay to say, “Hi.”:

Sometimes, when we see people different from us, we look right at them. It’s okay, it happens to the best of us. I’ve gotten caught staring myself a time or two, I’m sure. When I notice someone staring at me, I say, “Hi!” to break the ice. It [hopefully] snaps the person staring out of it, in a kind way.

So next time you see a person in a wheelchair, if you don’t know what to say, just try hi. It eases the tension, and you might brighten someone’s day.

 

Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down

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A few weeks ago, I found out that myself and 11 other coworkers will be losing our jobs after December 31 [Happy New Year!] The agency that we subcontract with is backing out of the contract 3 months early for their “convenience” and as a direct result of our constant advocacy for systems change in a program hampered by bureaucracy and disconnect. The way our organization has been treated makes it harder and harder to get up to go to work as the end of the year draws near. It was, and is, an infuriating example of callousness. 

Around the same time, there were people very dear to me [including my Someone] whose friends weren’t acting like friends. Multiple stories of unkindness, judgmental attitudes, and impatience were in the air. With all that, a busy schedule of work and teaching, and the constant ache of Transatlantic lovesickness, morale on Team Beth has been at an all-time low lately.

But through it all, I have found solace in some advice my stepdad gave me several years ago, during my 3-year-long struggle to find a job, after yet another rejection letter had left me angry and in tears at the kitchen table.

Illegitimi non carborundum,” he said cryptically.

“Huh?”

“Don’t let the bastards get you down.”

People can, in fact, be mean just for the sake of it. People hurt each other, even when given the benefit of the doubt. People are unkind, even when they have been shown kindness. It is normal to let it frustrate me. But I can’t let it get me down. Because when I stop at anger and begin to carry only anger around, no one wins. When I let it get me down and believe the things their words or actions are saying about who I am, they win. 

When I choose to be kind: I win.

Before you call me a Pollyanna: I can tell you right now that I am not always kind as I should be [or kind at all] in the moment of offense, and it is not always possible to go back and be kind to the same person who was unkind to me.  I also can’t [and shouldn’t] pretend like nothing is wrong when I’ve been hurt or mistreated.

So, when confronted with outright meanness, what’s a girl to do? Here are three things I will try my hardest to do going forward to help get myself through the end of the year [or at least through tomorrow]:

 

  • Shut my mouth. It is entirely possible I won’t have anything nice to say, and shouldn’t say it at all.
  • Pray for that person [or more accurately my lava-hot anger towards that person], and for something or someone else to focus my attention and energy on. After all the Good Book tells me that “Love Your Neighbor” does, in fact, include my enemy.
  • Be kind to someone else, the next chance I get. 

The truth is, no matter how mean someone is to me, no matter how small that the behavior of a Jerky-Jerkface makes me feel, being mean back does nothing but mirror their behavior and make me angrier.

And as soon as I let unkindness keep me from being kind, the Bad Guys win.

So don’t let them win.

Be kind, as best you can.

Don’t let the bastards get you down.

Let them make you kind of person the world needs: a better one.

 

Look At Me: Why Looking Past Disability is Toxic for Relationships

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If there’s one thing people love to do, it’s dream of their perfect mate. We might not all admit to it, but we’ve all done it, repeatedly. I’ve passed many an hour at a slumber party (and, in more recent years, over a cup of coffee) doing just that.  And it’s good to dream. Dreaming gives us faith and hope for things to get better. It helps us set our expectations higher than we might have otherwise. But for people with disabilities, there is one area, when it comes to dreaming, where we need to raise the bar.

Invariably, when I’m at a Girls’ Night with friends, the Perfect Mate topic comes up, followed by the list of ideal qualities: poet, rock star, Democrat, Republican, Anarchist, PhD, MD, and so on. I remember once, when it was my turn. I gazed wistfully into space and said, “And I just know that he’ll be someone who can look past my disability.” Everyone murmured and sighed in agreement, and I was immensely proud of myself for being so profound.

I shouldn’t have been. The truth is, hoping to find a mate who will “look past” my disability was (and is) the wrong approach to finding the right person. It sounds noble, but what are the real implications?

In my experience, disability doesn’t tend to disappear overnight. For myself, and many, it is permanent. If we want someone to look past that, we are asking, expecting, and hoping for him or her to avoid and ignore a big part of our reality. How can we talk about our lives, our challenges, and our experiences apart from our disability? And how can our partner truly share any of that with us, if he or she looks past it?

While not defining me, per se, my disability is a part of my identity. It has colored my perspective, shaped my career path, and helped form my peer groups. Do I want someone to look past such a fundamental part of my life? Of course I don’t. He would be left with an incomplete picture of who I am. And being with someone who doesn’t really know who you are: it strains the relationship; it fosters a sense of dishonesty. And it’s just awkward and weird.

I’m not immune to any of these pitfalls, by the way. . .I wouldn’t be equipped to write this if I wasn’t guilty of talking about “looking past” disability for the better part of my life. We live in a world so focused on physical ideals, it’s hard not to do it. But every time I’ve done that, I’ve been settling. I’ve really been saying to myself, “There isn’t a person who will accept and love you for who you are. He won’t be able to truly find all of you attractive.” Not only is that a lie, it is a lowered expectation that no one deserves to have for themselves, their partner, or their relationship.

It’s time for a change. Next time we’re at a Girls’ night (or Guys’ night, for that matter), and discussion turns back to that Perfect Mate, let’s drop the lackluster expectations. No matter if it’s a disability, or some other difference, we have to talk (and think) of who we are honestly:

Looking past me isn’t good enough anymore. It’s time to look at me. This, everything you see, and everything you don’t, is part of who I am. The perfect person for me is someone who loves and accepts all parts of me: typical and different.

Let’s not settle for relationships where someone looks past, ignores, or avoids any part of who we are. Let’s start to dream of someone who looks at us intently, and loves what they see.

blogging the life fantastic

I don’t do nearly as much reading as I used to. In order for me to read something all the way through nowadays, I have to be transfixed. Captivate me. Make me think. Challenge me. Throw me into the fray right alongside the hero. When I write, it is no different. Whether you love it or hate it, I want you to feel something when you read it. I want to share what I see with you, whether it’s pretty or ugly.

So, why haven’t you heard from me lately? Is it because Moonrise Kingdom just came out on DVD, and I’ve been holed up watching it on constant loop? No [although that is an excellent guess if you know me well at all]. Is it because I’ve been working on a masterpiece to rival all previous blogs? As a matter of fact. . . no.

Moonrise Kingdom, original fan art by Adam Juresko

I haven’t written lately for the precise reason I should have: my life has been challenging and exciting, exhilarating and heartbreaking, romantic and infuriating. There has been so much fodder for creativity in this emotional tour de force that I should be crowding your inboxes. But I have been painfully silent.

For that, I apologize.  I am careful to avoid details on these posts that may make others uncomfortable, and the situations themselves are nothing unique to human beings. But the honest truth, nonetheless, is that my life has hurt lately. It has made me angry, and it has confused me to no end. I have been knocked off my feet, cried many an ugly-cry, eaten too many things that weren’t good for me, and listened to the saddest folk music imaginable. But, amidst the maelstrom, I noticed something.

I was still waking up each day, still going to a job and coming home to an apartment, and still surrounded by the love of God, and the people he has given me to talk to, buy me beer, and bake me cookies. My life has managed to keep going, despite my complete uncertainty of how it will do so, or where it will take me along the way.

I recently watched an incredible film, two days in a row, that came onto my radar at the right time. In Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (for the Elderly and Beautiful), the owner of the hotel says, “In India, we have a saying: everything will be alright in the end. So if it is not alright, it is not yet the end.” Thanks for the knowledge bomb, Focus Features. I sat there on the couch, ruminating. Curses, I thought, I have officially been indie-schooled.

Even crazier was the thought that, not only would things eventually change for the better, but that there were already so many things in my life that had. When I stopped and began to think about it, I realized it very clearly. I slightly amended Joe’s little prayer in Joe vs. the Volcano tonight as I was winding down for the evening: “Dear God . . . thank you for my life.”

This doesn’t mean I’m loving every minute. There are still things I regret, and things I would change in a second if I could. There are moments when I wish I was a different person, and entire days where I want to be in a different place. My insides are still a whirlwind. I’m lucky if I can utter a clear “Lord, have mercy” some days. But it’s my life, I’m glad I have one, and I’m doing the best I can with it.

To everyone who has loved and supported me this past month, near and far, I say thanks. To everyone who has taught me with their silence, I  say thanks. And to all of you who have allowed me to be myself, even at its most frazzled, I owe you big time.

Thank you all for listening. Next time I won’t wait so long to tell you more.

not as i do

I have learned a few things from a lifetime of being a Girl.

  1. Guys are right. We’re crazy. I have decided to embrace this part of myself and try to pass it off as “uniqueness” rather than fighting it. It’s going alright so far.
  2. We like to talk. Okay, that’s not accurate, I’m sorry. We love to talk.
  3. We like to fix things. Or at least try our darndest to. And I’m not talking about useful “things” like your transmission or your plumbing. I’m talking about other “things”:  like your deep-rooted character issues, your most profound fears, or the Pile-of-Mess that is Your Feelings.

[Please note that these- and like statements throughout this post- are observations about patterns I’ve noticed, not universal, gender-exclusive truths that are set in stone. Okay? Great. Moving on.]

Because Talking and Fixing Things play so nice together, people like to come to us girls for advice. And more often than not, we jump at the chance to flex our highly attuned nurturing muscles. “What can I do?” “How can I help?” “Can I pray for you?” “I’ll be right over with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s for each of us!” We are all-too-ready to dive in with a solution. There is absolutely nothing wrong with following this impulse tactfully. People- no matter what their chromosomal makeup- need each other and need advice.

I am comforted not only when I know I have received good advice, but when I know I have given counsel that  comforts or spurs on someone I care about. But I had an epiphany recently. And not the pleasant kind, the nagging, annoying kind.  it’s been bugging me ever since. There is a striking similarity between the answers I give and the answers I seek.

Thus begging the question: why can’t I take my own advice?

I cannot tell you how many times I have said things like “Why would you like someone who doesn’t like you?” or “Maybe you should set smaller, more attainable goals for yourself”, or “Get a job, hippie!” and thought-  “Hey, that was really profound. I wish I could think like that.” Of course I do think like that. But I can’t seem to connect the dots. I have a head full of stars, but no constellations.

Last night, I had a head full of medicine, food, and drink, and none of it was mixing very well. I had far too much on my mind, and was feeling particularly Out of It. As soon as I settled in, I got a message from a friend who I hadn’t heard from in ages. He asked for help. He was having a crisis of faith. And having had my fair share of those myself, we were able to talk through some things. I was remarkably calm, cool and collected. Even though, just an hour or two before, I had told someone “I just feel like I don’t know which way is up”.

I think being incapable of taking our own advice is a distinctly human problem. Everyone grapples with it. But why?

Well, for one: nothing tastes quite like humble pie. Life is a parade of lessons in humility for those who are paying the slightest bit of attention. So perhaps all those little ironies are just, um, teaching opportunities.

Then there is the encouragement we get from taking someone else from a not-so-good place to a better one. Perhaps those same moments- those same character exercises- can remind us that no matter how low we feel like we are, we can always reach up to help someone elsee.